By: Rees Linn
FC Dallas’s 19 game unbeaten streak ended with a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night in Utah. Ned Grabavoy and Javier Morales tallied for the hosts in the second half to hand Dallas their first loss since May.
Despite the broken unbeaten streak, the real story of the match for Dallas was the return of Ugo Ihemelu and Daniel Hernandez from injury. Both players played the full 90 minutes, and although their inclusion is fantastic news, it could present a difficult selection problem for Shellas Hyndman going into their last match before the playoffs.
Hernandez is the team captain and will almost certainly start even if he’s not as sharp as he was mid-season. This means that Hyndman will have to decide whether to play a very in-form Eric Alexander next to Hernandez, or Dax McCarty who’s missed a substantial amount of the season with his own injuries. On Saturday, Hyndman opted for the more experienced and usually quite dynamic McCarty, but in this contest the rust was unmissable and Alexander’s influence was sorely missed through the middle.
The choice to start Ihemelu brings a similar problem – do you start a proven and experienced defender and hope he can shake off the rust, or do you start Zach Loyd who’s been in fantastic form over the last five or six matches?
The real trick for Hyndman will be in figuring out why the attack suddenly went stale this weekend. True, the Salt Lake defense is top tier, but Dallas barely looked capable of providing a scoring threat. MVP candidate David Ferreira had trouble finding a rhythm, but the midfield wasn’t able to provide him with the ball the way it normally does. The absence of Brek Shea was supposed to have been explained by the superb form of Marvin Chavez, but the Honduran failed to provide much down the left. Luckily, the somewhat inconsistent Jackson looked skillful on the right.
All in all, there are a lot of questions to be answered before Dallas plays in LA next Sunday. Judging by the result against Salt Lake these decisions should be easy to make, but knowing Hyndman, there’s probably a lot more he’ll be taking into consideration. Whatever he decides, Dallas fans will be worried that their team has run out of steam at the worst possible time: right before the playoffs.